MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KTTC) -- Today in the Twin Cities a 12 year old boy underwent a procedure that could potentially become a part of medical history. He suffers from leukemia and HIV, however today, he was the recipient of an umbilical cord-blood transplant.
The process is nothing new for treating leukemia, but has never been done before in the hopes of curing HIV. "Cord blood itself for treating patients with leukemia we've been doing that for a long time, it's the HIV cure that's the big deal," said Dr. John Wagner.
"We've identified a cord blood unit that can be used for transplantation in this child but also has a natural resistance to HIV," said Dr. Michael Verneris.
The blood is useful yet rare, only being found in one percent of Caucasian cord blood units. "This cord blood unit was shipped to us and has remained in our facility frozen and this morning it was thought out and infused through a vein essentially," explained Verneris. "Through a big catheter, circulates around in his body for a while. And then those stem cells find their way back inside his bone. And setup and start making new blood."
A step that has never been taken until today. So how does a breakthrough like this come through the University of Minnesota? Simply put, when it comes to cord blood transplants no one does more of them.
This sort of transplant for HIV has been done once before, in Berlin, 6 years ago. The difference is that was using bone marrow, a tougher match for patients.
"Cord blood is much more forgiving," said Wagner. "It allows you to not have a perfect match and yet still have a successful outcome."
If proven to be successful, it could potentially open the path to safer therapies that do not include chemo or radiation. Doctors understand some HIV strains will still be resistant, but rare.
Why hasn't this happened until now? Banks are currently not testing all of the cord blood for the HIV resistant units. If what the doctors believe is true and boy is cured, they hope it broadens the want for testing throughout all banks.
We're told the boy is doing just fine in his recovery, and doctors should know more in a month.
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